Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New & Novel: Purr-tagonists

From Puss in Boots to Krazy Kat, the Cheshire Cat to The Cat in the cult British TV show Red Dwarf (if you're not familiar, he's a Felis Sapiens which evolved from a domestic housecat), felines demonstrating agency have been around for quite some time. Cats in literature have quite a pedigree, particularly in mysteries - some of the most well-known include:

  • Lillian Jackson Braun wrote a couple dozen The Cat Who books, starring reporter named Jim Qwilleran and his Siamese cats, Kao K'o-Kung (Koko for short) and Yum-Yum
  • Rita Mae Brown has co-authored a mystery series with her cat, Sneaky Pie Brown (the mysteries also feature a cat named Mrs. Murphy)
  • stray cat...who has a talent for detection" 
  • Carole Nelson Douglas writes the Midnight Louie mystery books, where chapters alternate between the voice of Midnight Louie, a slightly overweight black cat, and his human "roommate"
  • Shirley Rousseau Murphy's cat P.I., Joe Grey, has his own website, which describes him as "the sharpest feline sleuth on the mystery scene--one cool cat, a clawed and formidable enemy of crime"
  • Sofie Kelly writes about a librarian who solves mysteries with the aid of her cats with magic powers
  • the Dixie Hemingway mysteries feature a sleuth who is a former sheriff, now professional cat-sitter 

How do you feel about anthropomorphized pets in novels? We confess to a tendency to avoid them, having been irrevocably scarred by exposure in our youth to the sad end of the animals in Sounder and Old Yeller, but books about animals running the show seem to be quite popular.  In fact, there are two (very different) brand-spanking-new books with cat protagonists:

Cat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss

For people who both love and hate cats comes the tale of Alec Charlesworth, a librarian who finds himself suddenly alone: he's lost his job, his beloved wife has just died, and to top it all off, his sister has disappeared. Overcome by grief, he stands in his sister's kitchen staring at the only witness to whats happened to her - her cat, Roger. Who then speaks to him. It takes a while for Alec to realize hes not gone mad from grief, that the cat is actually speaking . . . and that much of what we fear about cats is true. They do think they're smarter than humans, for one thing. And, well, it seems they are! Whats more, they do have nine lives. Or at least this one does. Roger's older than Methuselah, and his unblinking stare comes from the fact that he's seen it all. And he's got a tale to tell, a tale of shocking local history and dark forces that may link not only the death of Alec's wife, but also several other local deaths. But will the cat help Alec, or is he one of the dark forces?

Mort(e) by Robert Repino

The war with no name has begun, with human extinction as its goal. The instigator of this war is the Colony, a race of intelligent ants who, for thousands of years, have been silently building an army that would forever eradicate the destructive, oppressive humans. Under the Colony's watchful eye, this utopia will be free of the humans' penchant for violence, exploitation and religious superstition. The final step in the Colony's war effort is transforming the surface animals into high-functioning two-legged beings who rise up to kill their masters. Former housecat turned war hero, Mort(e) is famous for taking on the most dangerous missions and fighting the dreaded human bio-weapon EMSAH. But the true motivation behind his recklessness is his ongoing search for a pre-transformation frienda dog named Sheba. When he receives a mysterious message from the dwindling human resistance claiming Sheba is alive, he begins a journey that will take him from the remaining human strongholds to the heart of the Colony, where he will discover the source of EMSAH and the ultimate fate of all of earth's creatures.  Sound intriguing?  For more fiction with cat protagonists, check out the library catalog.
We recommend, just for fun, The Meowmorphosis - a parody of Kafka which sees "Gregor Samsa, a seemingly typical man...transformed into a cat"; or, if you prefer something more serious, check out Takashi Hiraide's The Guest Cat, which NPR called "illuminating and achingly poetic". If you're more of a dog person...well, we're sure there's books about dogs too.

*descriptions are taken from the library catalog unless otherwise noted

1 comment:

Amy DiBello said...

Great post! Very well-written and it's exciting to see cats in a literary light.